We didn’t plan much. Meet @ my place, on Wednesday, 09:00. Set general direction, Eran gathered some pointers from friends, and this teaser:
Challenge: Given the coast temperatures’ range, you need light and heavy option of everything. Two riding jackets, two sets of gloves, storm pants for the sensitive one… and the usual packing list
Space: Limited. Saddle bags on my bike, large square container on Eran’s
And of course, there’s the shoe challenge. Riding boots and…?
This is what I was looking at in the morning, reassured that there’ll be some spare space if I must have:
Eran’s luggage, riding gear excluded, looked different. Some may call it gender-related bias. Each of us, of course, packed also one iCult and one iToy.
No snacks, no to-go cup with a latte. There are riding times in which even changing a radio station is not an option. Forget the munchies.
Off we are
One cappuccino, one latte, tanks are filled, and we are off south-bound. I recall the long Chautauquas in the classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Mine are much less organized. I follow Eran as my beacon. I think of the safety that comes with a riding buddy you really trust. Recalling diving [which I haven’t done in years], I recall of a miserable dive with a dive buddy I didn’t trust, and enjoy the difference.
The FM reception deteriorates into white noise, and i turn the radio off. Now I’m alone with the voices in my head and the wind. Exposed to the elements, I feel every degree change, whether is drops as we climb up or goes up as we get closer to sea level. My lululemon outfit supports the temperature’s shifts better than expected. Silver lining at its best.
And the view. No video or blog praise to Pacific Road or Highway 1 describing it as one of the best drives in the world, is as good as riding it like we do. This is what meditation should feel like. Shift eyes from the road to the cliff, and once we meet the coastline, it’s the water… the first breath of sea salt air, and what I take in is the smell of a vacation, a sense of freedom. I decline the offer for a break. My mind is… I don’t even know where, and I don’t want it to stop. We ride on. In hindsight, the rides bring me to the state of mind Julia Roberts couldn’t in Eat, Pray, Love.
It’s Mexican. The Whole Enchilada. I’m OK with it. The nachos and salsa are served, lemon test passed. I’m happy that neither of us wears riders’ leather gear. We would look like a caricature of riders, I smile to myself. The enchilada, it seems, thinks of itself as a vacation spot, and the little mermaid that comes with Eran’s Coke is a proof. The other diners have that lazy vacation look, without a purpose.
Someone suggests a better parking spot for the blue mermaid, and it is taken care of right away.
There’s no sign forbidding us to feed the natives, and our black friend provides the live and lively entertainment. The beak ticking on the tiles indicates his engagement, and adds nice drumming to the sounds of the water fountain. Given the number or restaurants I’ve been to recently that came with some water fountain, I wonder if people drink or eat more to the sound of water…
Not yet finished with “documenting” the lemon test and the mermaid on Coke, I don’t let the arrival of the food interrupt the task. I multitask.
“You know,” Eran says, “cutlery doesn’t mean fork in one hand and a phone in the other.” I lift my head, fork at left, phone at right, guilty as charged. “I’m not doing email, not SMS-ing,” I say, meaning I am here, engaged. “Am almost done with the photo,” I add, as the weakness of my defense is pointed out. Remember the time my mind has when riding? Some of it went into this observation. Measured during bio-breaks and stops through the rest of the day, I was embarrassed to realize that between taking a photo [or five], PIXLR EXPRESS, Foursquare, Studio, and Facebook, it may take up to 15 minutes of phone-engagement. 15 minutes in which my ears are engaged and present, but my eyes are not. Withdrawal isn’t easy, and [as some of you already observed,] the new practice is that once I take the pictures, you get my eyes.
Fork in one hand, phone in the other – could be a slogan for something. Maybe the camera should be on the fork, and it should be a Wi-Fi fork. Or Bluetooth. Which one consumes less battery?
With no desire to ever return to the whole enchilada, we leave.
Cruz Saves the Day
I mean we try to. I don’t need to look for the bike’s key. It is in the switch. The headlight is off. Oh my.
Eran pushes, I, feeling like the day’s biggest idiot, ride, we try once, twice, trice, and give up. Releasing the clutch kills the momentum, and the engine rests. We knock on the window of the café, getting the attention of the manager. “Excuse me, do you know where we could get someone to jumpstart a bike,” I ask. I get the feeling that the lady has seen embarrassed morons before. “Give me a minute,” she says and picks up the phone. First call ends with her writing a 2nd number. Second call ends with, “He already left, but he is coming back, he’ll be here soon.”
We look at each other, circle the building, learn that it’s the Lighthouse Harbor Grille, sit at the counter, and order one cappuccino, one latte. The gal behind the counter is trying to convince us that regular coffee is great. “We already cleaned the machine for the day” she pleads with us. We ask if the machine is broken and wait. She tries again, and gets going on our drinks. I get three, maybe four sips of my latte, and the jumping guy arrives. I step out and meet Cruz, his truck, and the cables. We already took the battery cover off before, so there isn’t all that much to do; connect, ignite, wait. Guess our lunch was really long. Don’t blame the social photography, please.
When this battery is dead, it’s really dead. I get to drink a few more sips of the coffee. Cruz refuses any drink, and I learn that he is the handyman of few of the establishments here, at Moss Landing. The café’s owner called him back after he already left for the day. When I try to run the engine on its own, it’s still dead, so more charging. Patience.
Cruz refuses any pay, and with my endless thanks drives away. We thank the lady too, and… back to the road.
The Ride is my Meditation
Ride, breathe, look around and take it in, struggle with the little engine that can, but slowly. Breathe, absorb the amazing landscape, get gas, continue.
The afternoon hours bring with them a long winding climb. Between my slower taking of these curves, and the little engine, Eran’s back gets smaller and smaller, at times completely hidden. The mirrors tell me that a few riders are politely & patiently waiting for my engine to grow. With a somewhat frustrated sigh I wave them to pass. One Harley, two Harleys, three Harleys, maybe four, pass me and are gone. Now it’s only the wind, the winding road, and me. Gear down, escalate, gear up, fall back, gear down. Eventually I pull over to a waiting Eran.
And then, to my dismay, the French riders approach my bike and… take photos of it, obviously entertained. The little bike that could, ha? It’s too funny to get upset about. And when I do, eventually, Eran points out the gender fact: the men in front, women sit behind.
Onward we ride.
Whenever we need to climb up, the little engine that could, can, but slowly. It can’t harm the spiritual experience of the ride, but there’s a growing frustration.
Late afternoon – Hearst San Simeon State Park
The temperatures started to drop, and not only in the shade. The smell of the salt gets stronger, or maybe saltier, and I consider if I need to stop and change to the winter gloves.
Eran, in a perfect timing, turns into a sand and gravel parking lot, drives to the end, and stops. Helmet off, gloves off, and I’m COLD. Even when we have to take off exactly the same amount of items, i.e. helmet, gloves, ear plugs, the guy is walking towards no-idea-what. I get the camera out, and follow.
Everything is sand and grey. No amazing view to wow over. “Why did we stop here?”
“Shh, look.” I push my way through the taller observers, and wow. “Shh” the looks around say.
Hearst San Simeon State Park, one of the two beaches in the Coastline of California, where the dominant among the Northern Elephant Seals, are returning, displacing the sub adult males who have been on the beach for weeks practicing their gladiator skills in hopes of competing against those giant bulls for the affection of the females. These battles usually take place between Mid November and January, which means that what we saw are the sub adults. And what a sight they were.
The Last Miles
It’s hard to detach ourselves from these amazing and cute animals, but the growing wind and shades are motivating. Back at the saddle bags, I pick winter gloves, liner gloves, a fleece scarf, and hope for an easy ride. It is still beautiful.
A stop to put the no-longer-needed sunglasses away, a gas stop, and by the time we enter San Luis Obispo it’s dark.
Traveling off-season has its benefit, and with no reservation we are warmly welcome at Petit Soleil. No time to admire the design, atmosphere, or comfort of the place. We are due for dinner and we better get it while we still can.